The talent unions and ad industry are working together on the thorny issue of how actors get compensated for their work in ads that appear on devices such as cellphones and MP3s, as well as video on demand.
The groups - the ad industry's Joint Policy Committee on Broadcast Talent Union Relations, the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists - have asked nine different consultants to submit proposals that will address how actors in commercials will be paid when the spots appear on multiple media.
"We're doing this mutually, and it's a great step forward," said Doug Wood, lead negotiator for the ad industry's Joint Policy Committee. "We need to find a balance between what advertisers need to do to reach audiences and how talent can be fairly compensated."
The goal is to stave off potential trouble as the groups renegotiate contracts that are set to expire in the fall. As part of the ongoing discussions, the groups are considering an extension of that late-October contract expiration date so that the compensation study can be completed. The ad industry and talent representatives agree that the old model - originally forged in the '50s - does not work in today's complicated media landscape in which ads are spread across cellphones, video-on-demand and iPods. The two sides are exploring ways to revise the model, and they've narrowed their search to nine unnamed consultants.
The consultants have been given an early-June deadline to submit their proposals on how long a study would take, how much it would cost and what methodology would be used. Once a consultant is chosen, the ad and talent reps will jointly pay for the study, which isn't binding but could be used as a tool in future negotiations.
The pool of consultants emerged after the ad industry's Joint Policy Committee made a "request for qualifications," which included knowledge about employment, labor, new media and advertising.
The consultants could come up with multiple revenue models, which the JPC and the talent reps will consider, tweak or amend. The JPC was pursuing its own compensation study when SAG and AFTRA recently decided to join in the process.
"Advertisers have made it clear that this isn't about cutting back on compensation," said John Hinrichs, an AFTRA spokesman. "It's a positive step that we're discussing this now."
The talent unions went on strike against the ad community in 2000, making some gains but giving upsome demands and going back to work after six months.
That tactic is still hotly debated in union circles, and the discussions now are intended to stop another strike long before it happens.